This is the second part of the ABB 3D Printing Guide. I recommend if you haven’t read part 1 yet, go back and take a look: http://www.andrewsbrain.com/2020/05/04/abb-3d-printing-guide-part-1/
If you have read part 1 then you should understand the basics of how a 3D printer works and a little bit about supports and how choices you make before printing will effect the end result of your print. For this part of the 3D Printing guide I wanted to go over how you can go from idea to a model to a slicing tool to g-code for your printer.
First, you will want to find yourself any 3D modeling software. There are some that are industrial grade and very costly, but have amazing features and there are also some that are completely free with little but helpful features.
I personally use Fusion 360 from Autodesk. https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/fusion-360-for-hobbyists
They have a personal license which is free, you just need to make an account and get the personal license at the bottom of the page after clicking the link above. One thing to keep in mind with this tool is that everything is cloud based so all your designs are not saved locally on your PC. They are instead saved to the cloud linked through your account. This means you need internet access to work on your designs.
Another 3D modeling tool that is free and cloud based is Google Sketchup. Google Sketchup is very simple with minimal features, but pretty good for beginners to play around with. Other options would be the oh so powerful SolidWorks, Blender, TinkerCAD and many more. I recommend trying all the free tools and deciding for yourself which is most comfortable for you to work with. If you need more functionality then consider other options, but for hobby projects the free tools should usually be enough. Which ever tool you decide to use just make sure you can output STL files of your model. That is going to be very important because we will need the STL file as an input for our slicer. (Depending on your slicer you may be able to input other files into the tool, but STL files are by far the most common)
That being said, using Fusion 360 you can create 3D models of anything you’d like! The mentality of this tool is similar to most 3D modeling tools now where you design and draw on a surface and you can extrude toward or away from that surface. There are also some 3D modeling tools for free that are purely code based for those who prefer to type instructions for the model’s desgin rather than click around tool bars. One example of that type of software is OpenSCAD.
For the sake of this guide, I will show off one of the simple projects I’ve done using these tools. I created a photo booth picture frame. It’s a frame used on those oddly shaped photos you get from photo booths! I decided to cut out a lot of the backside just to make the print faster and use less plastic. The flaws with this design is that it’s a difficult design to 3D print because of the sharp right angles that would need support to print properly, but whatever it’s good enough.
Once you’ve selected your favorite 3D Modeling Software next is finding a slicing software that can accommodate your specific printer. I have the Ender 3, which is a pretty common printer so most slicing tools would work.
I use Cura because it’s stupid simple and already had the Ender 3 preset settings included in the tool. Other options are OctoPrint, Slic3r, PrusaSlicer, Makerbot Print and many others. Makerbot and Prusa specifically manufacture their own 3D printers so if you happen to buy one of theirs, their tool may be ideal for their brand of printers.
Back to Fusion 360, we have an option to output our model as an STL for 3D printing. The tool has some Slicer applications available in the drop down menu. Cura is a choice there, but if you have another tool, you can choose “custom” and give it the path to the .exe file for whichever slicer you so choose. The ability to send the STL output directly to the print utility is a pretty useful feature. Please allow it some time to output though as it can be a little slow.
Now we can click over to our Slcier (Cura) window and see that our model is shown on our virtual build plate.
In the photo above you can see in the top left corner I have already given the program the type of printer I will be using, the type of material I plan on printing in and the size of the nozzle hole. With that information the tool will create a lot of recommended settings for you. I suggest going with the recommended settings for the first print, then see how it goes. It might be that your plastic material may melt better at different temperatures depending on where you got the plastic or maybe your print needs support material so the recommended settings will likely not work for all your prints. Using a slicer you can choose how dense you want the print to be, how dense you want the supports to be, what angles to generate supports, and many other settings that get to be useful depending on the design of your print. Then once we have our settings all decided upon, we just click “Slice” on the bottom right and we will be given a print time estimate and an estimation of how much material we need to complete the print (given in both weight of material and length of filament)
The file that we save now is a G-code file that your 3D printer can interpret as motor commands. Then all that is left to do is hitting go and waiting the 7 hours.
There you have it!
Thanks for taking the time to read this very brief 3D printing guide. Hopefully this has given you enough information to start getting into the hobby yourself. I plan on documenting more projects with my 3D printer and documenting the issues I have to overcome from time to time.
In the next part of this guide I will discuss:
- Common 3D printing mistakes
- Common issues you will need to overcome with your 3D printer
- Suggested 3D printable upgrades for the Ender 3
Thanks for taking the time to read this article! If you have any questions please leave a comment below or feel free to DM me on instagram @andrew_alves8